Last night I attended a panel discussion on the Future of Water hosted by the Nature Conservancy and WBUR. The panelists explained and debated the complicated, fascinating issues of water distribution at both global and local scales. All panelists emphasized that urban water conservation is key to solving the global water crisis. With that in mind, here are some water conservation tips for Bostonians:
1. Be a thoughtful consumer. Panelist Sandra Postel explained that approximately 700 gallons of water is needed to make one cotton T shirt. Water is used in the production of almost everything you buy - so shop wisely, and if possible, consume less.
2. Learn where your water comes from. Most Americans don't know where their water is sourced beyond the tap. Knowing the source of your water will help you be wary of specific conservation issues in your area.
3. In the same vein, find out where your water goes after its flushed down the drain. For many Bostonians, the answer is Deer Island, and then 9 miles out in the ocean. You can even take a tour of the waste treatment facility! (I did this a few years ago, and it was fascinating!)
4. Buy food from small, local farms (and ask them about their irrigation practices). According to Panelist Brian Richter, irrigated agriculture accounts for 93% of wasted (unrecycled) water use.
5. Track your water use. The average American uses approximately 2,000 gallons per day. Peter Brabeck, CEO of Nestle (one of the world's largest sellers of bottled water) has said that humans should only have a right to 8 gallons per person per day - could you live on that?
6. Be a squeaky wheel. The third panelist, Steven Solomon, stressed the importance of being loud about water issues because they are largely ignored by politicians. Such citizen concern has been the spark of many anti-fracking policies across the U.S.
7. Change corporate behavior. Companies are huge water consumers. Find out if there are water conservation policies at your workplace, and consider how you could make them more effective.
8. Education. Spread your knowledge and passion for water conservation to others.
9. Be open-minded about paying more for water. Rate-payers (aka consumers) obviously don't want to pay more for water, but if we don't, our water infrastructure will continue to deteriorate as no funding is going towards fixing leaky water mains, and making efficiency upgrades.
10. Get engaged. It was great to see such a good turn out at The Future of Water panel, and I look forward to see similar crowds at upcoming water-themed events around the city.